At its best, politics is a community conversation about ideas and ideals. Its a dynamic, positive force for the common good.
When it devolves into a fight for power when participants are most focused on jockeying for position, through means fair or foul ideas are pushed to the background.
Winning is important. It has become more highly valued than consensus, because victory (or what passes for it) is easier to achieve than consensus. It doesnt require a majority; in fact, it frequently succeeds because of apathy or fragmentation among non-supporters. That strategy seeks to capitalize less on the strengths of its own adherents an ideas than on opponents weaknesses.
In the short term, it works. It produces winners. Over time, though, it weakens the entire community because it distracts from the development of ideas. Its simply not productive.
Destroying political yard signs is, by definition, an example of non-constructive political participation. It doesnt inform voters. It doesnt convince them of the strengths of a particular position or candidate; it doesnt even motivate them to evaluate positions and candidates. It doesnt produce improvement. It doesnt produce anything except anger.
Yet it happens locally in every single election. People who could be brainstorming ways to make city government more effective and responsive are instead bickering about whether the missing and destroyed signs are the result of vandalism by opponents or strategic misinformation by supporters or both, or the unrelenting spring wind, or a combination of all the above.
Great. How does that discussion relate to good government?
The answer, of course, is that it does not. Its a waste of energy, and its part of a larger problem characterized by the unproductive use of political capital.
Some of the recall supporters have legitimate complaints and have experienced frustration as theyve sought to resolve those complaints. One positive political solution might have been a recall election in which voters could choose between two slates of qualified individuals dedicated to serving the people of Cortez.
Instead, voters are faced with an election that involves petty vandalism (which is bad enough) and opaque strategies (which are far worse). Those maneuvers may result in hand-picked as opposed to popularly elected nominees serving until a regular election, at which point theyll have the advantage of incumbency. They might be dedicated and principled public servants or they might not, but they would not be the peoples choice.
Recalling elected officials is never easy, but a good recall effort provides an opportunity for productive community conversation. It provides clear choices and sufficient information to enable voters to judge which are better. It is about creating a brighter future, not gaining revenge for an unsatisfactory past.
Cortez citizens have a choice between the current council and a new one that is largely unknown. They also have a choice between clean, forward-thinking political discussions and the sort that are characterized by torn-up signs.
Choose carefully. The stakes are high.